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Another week for UK news and one where I realised how shallow politics can be (it was a ‘dah’ moment).  I never thought I’d put the Leveson Report and whistleblowing in the same sentence and I have no desire to comment on politics but it struck me that this is a powerful example of what can happen in organisations when good intentions get missed up with personal feelings.

For those of you with no interest in UK politics I’ll recap.  This guy called Leveson was asked to hold an Inquiry and write a Report on a spate of illegal actions by the UK Press.  Despite current legislation proving adequate to bring the perpetrators to justice, Leveson called for new laws to be introduced that provided oversight (aka regulation) of the media.  In doing so he suggested reversing hundreds of years of separation between the Press and government and completed missed the whole subject of social media.  Throw in some shadowy pressure groups (assumed to be celebrities who wish to remain anonymous!), a whole bunch of internal party politics and (we could assume) a chance by politicians to get revenge for a series of media exposures over the last few years and you have a complicated mess.

At the same time, the government is calling for confidentially clauses in Healthcare Service severance agreements to be restricted and for the Health Service to become ‘more open and transparent’, but states that creating legislation to force health professionals to become whistleblowers would not work.  The purpose of these statements is an attempt to encourage more whistleblowers to come forward and report issues of patient ill treatment.

Am I the only person to notice the irony of these seemingly contradictory approaches?

While I’m not going to get started on the rights and wrongs of the Leveson Report (other than to say that I could be subject to the legislation, or maybe not, but no-one actually knows), I think that it powerfully demonstrates the issues of whistleblowing (and courage) in organisations.

On one hand, you have recognition that creating ‘rules’ does not change people’s behaviour (rules a simply a full stop – see last weeks blog).  On the other hand, creating rules is an easy way to be seen to take action (‘it sends a message’) but even if meant in the best interests of the organisation (in this case society), can easily be waylaid by powerful and obscure groups for personal interests.  The Press is a critical outlet for societies 'whistleblowers' and yet regulating it will make it harder for legitimate concerns to be raised.

Courageous organisations bring incredible benefits to their employees, customers, stakeholders and the societies in which they operate.  Compared to their less courageous competitors, courageous organisations are more innovative, have higher productivity levels and therefore profits and their employees are more engaged and less likely to leave.

However, senior managers who want to create courageous organisations not only face a long process in changing employee’s behaviour, they are actively seeking to create an organisation that will (at times) disagree with them.

No wonder courageous organisations require courageous leaders. 

The great news is that we can all be courageous leaders.  Leadership is not related to position or job title.  We don’t have to wait for others to lead us, we can lead ourselves and through our example others will follow.

But that’s a tale for another day…